Tuesday, July 01, 2008


PLAGIARISM: even the spelling of this word is ugly!

From wikipedia.org: Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work

The UNC Honor Court defines plagiarism as "the deliberate or reckless representation of another's words, thoughts, or ideas as one's own without attribution in connection with submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise."

Taken from plagiarism.org:
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary plagiarism is defined as:
1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
2. to use (another's production) without crediting the source
3. to commit literary theft
4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

The word itself conjures shivers down my spine. One of the very reasons that I never wanted to be in an online class or send my work out was the fear of plagiarism. I started writing poetry when I was young (maybe about 8) and I knew absolutely nothing!

I had a poem published in a local weekly paper when I was 20 and the editor liked it so much that he sent it into a contest, where I won honorable mention. I was so excited that someone had read and liked my work, the bug of writing had bitten me and I was off on a journey I had only dreamed of.

I then entered the contest again and again and sure enough they loved my work. I was on a roll. Until that is, I dug deeper into who was running the contest (after many snail mails garnered no response.) My instinct told me that the Vanity Publishing House was using my work to make them money (as well as millions of other dreamers.)

Discouragement set in deep and it wasn’t until almost 20 more years were added to my life, that I got a computer and started releasing my work to the internet. I didn’t care if someone stole my work, just to see it on the screen made me feel like I was accomplishing something. That is when I took a two-year writing course to further me along in my writing.

The writing bug that I thought I had put to sleep was awakened like Rip Van Winkle. I had writing fever and I couldn’t stop. My mentor at the time was impressed that I had never written anything but poetry and he encouraged me to continue writing. That is what I needed, encouragement. Since no one in my life had ever encouraged me to do anything, I was determined to set out and encourage every person I could find. If I liked their writing and saw potential, I was going to be the arm that nudged them into realizing their dream.

Now with more determination than ever, I continue to write. I still have people admiring my work and saying things that stem from my early writing like, "That has a poetic feel." or "Your style of prose is wonderful." A compliment to a bruised ego. But as I take this leap of faith, that haunting word comes creeping back and I watch as it slithers up my leg and tries to seep further up until it reaches my mind. Plagiarism! The dirty ugly bug that leaks in my system covering me with fear.

Creativity is one’s own beauty and can not be taken or substituted. You can’t steal someone’s work, call it your own, and mask it to look original. Eventually it will catch up to you (like I’ve seen happen to a few of Oprah’s books of the month club.) Someone will eventually say, "Hey, that sounds an awful lot like so and so." And it is at that time that the river of doubt comes streaming down and people start to take notice and then you are considered a fraud.

I know that as writer’s, we have a tendency to think alike. It is as if we’re in the same stream of conscious awareness and we pick up what our fellow writer’s are going to write or are about to write and we begin writing with little or no clue that they have already been there done that. But it is up to us as writer’s to make our work original! Make it a piece of art, mold it to form to YOUR personality.

A true writer is an artist in his/her own league. They have an aura that hangs over them making them stand out among the crowd. Sure everyone wants a little piece of the magic that the artist/writer has, but if you don’t make it your own, then you are plagiarizing the very person that you look up to.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful and thoughtful post. Actually, I have never given plagiarism too much thought before reading this.

As we have mentioned before, sometimes I get upset when finding out that an idea I had was already published. I attribute that to the Collective Unconscious studied by Carl G. Jung.

Plagiarism sounds like cheating at school, writing one's name on someone else's homework.

This is a paragraph I loved from your post:

"A true writer is an artist in his/her own league. They have an aura that hangs over them making them stand out among the crowd. Sure everyone wants a little piece of the magic that the artist/writer has, but if you don’t make it your own, then you are plagiarizing the very person that you look up to."

You are an artist who puts color to the words.


joni said...

Whoa! An artist who puts colors to words!
Well thank you Susan!:-D

I think the collective conscious does come into play here, but plagiarism is when someone STEALS what you've written.

I know we as writers will write the same thing (each week in our writing prompts I'm a witness to it)but if I write something and someone takes it and calls it their own!

Well that's just bloody thievery! lol

Thank you so much for visiting and lending to me all of your support! It means alot!


June said...

Bravo, Joni!

Writers should be too busy doing their own writing or working at getting published to steal the work of others. (And those few that do plagiarize -- are they "real" writers?)

Anyone who is concerned about others stealing their writing can always get their writing registered (for those in the USA) at the Library of Congress -- Copyright Office.

(A reminder -- as soon as you have your work recorded, no matter what form you use, it is copyrighted.)

Take care,

Anonymous said...

I know it's sad to think that someone can steal your work.
I wonder if copyright really helps. What happens if someone steals your work, signs it as his own and you never know about it? Can that be possible?


PS. Yes, you put colors to words. =)